Winx factor: Sydney gets ready to salute its sweetheart in sellout swansong

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It’s a small world. You head out into Sydney’s beating heart on a Winx-related mission and find yourself talking to the godfather of Harry Whittington’s wife.

The gentleman in question, James Charles, is an Englishman who has lived in Australia for eight years. Right now he is strolling along Circular Quay, the Opera House and Harbour Bridge both within sight. Much further away is Warwick, where the Whittington-trained Djin Conti won James a few dollars on Wednesday.

“I don’t follow racing myself but my goddaughter Alice is married to a racehorse trainer in the Lambourn hills, and I had a nice win on one of his horses yesterday,” says the friendly expat, who, although not an aficionado of the turf, does know about Australia’s leading lady.

“We’ve had two really famous racehorses in this country,” he says. “One was Phar Lap [90 years ago]. Now we have Winx, who people compare to Phar Lap. The newspapers are full of it. She is a national heroine and people will be glued to their televisions on Saturday.”

You can't escape racing in some of Sydney's busiest railway stations
You can’t escape racing in some of Sydney’s busiest railway stations – Lee Mottershead

Any Australian who has been watching television news bulletins or read a newspaper will be well aware of Winx. In the countdown to her Randwick swansong she has been on one front page after another. She is also elegantly plastered in mural form across a wall on Sydney’s Wynyard Street and features in videos being shown on numerous screens in the city’s railway stations.

Winx’s races have been watched on a screen in New Jersey by Bob and Rita Kasinow, here after winning a competition whose first prize was an all-expenses paid trip to Australia for Winx’s racing finale.

“We’re very excited,” says Rita, who is struggling to cope with her current time zone and went to bed last night at 6pm.

“I’ve been an avid horseracing fan since I was a little boy and have been following Winx from a distance,” says Bob.

“We love the fact she has won these string of races and also the way she has won them. What is incredible to me is she always fires her best shot every time. You just don’t see that with other horses. She never has an off-day.”

The Kasinows are now excited about the upcoming very big day.

“I can imagine there are going to be tears and excitement, no matter what happens in the race,” says Bob. “If she makes the move that everyone is anticipating you will feel the stands shake. The roar of the crowd will be just awesome.”

Tim and Jeanette now live in The Australian Bush but Tim used to live in Leighton Buzzard. He doesn't know much about Winx.
Tim and Jeanette now live in The Australian Bush but Tim used to live in Leighton Buzzard. He doesn’t know much about Winx. Lee Mottershead

A rather awesome day was recently enjoyed by Tim, a man with an English accent and a large hat, who is walking underneath the hat and alongside his wife Jeanette. She doesn’t have a hat.

“Tim turned 80 last Sunday,” says Jeanette as the pair enjoy their final morning in Sydney before returning home to the Bush. Having once resided in Leighton Buzzard, Tim can truly say he says he has seen it all, or at least the Leighton Buzzard and bushy bits.

Asked for some Winx insight, he sadly comes up short.

“A horse eats through its mouth and excretes through its tail, that’s all I know,” he says, which leads to an intervention from Jeanette.

“He’s a Pom, I’m an Aussie, ask me,” she says, so I ask her.

“I’m not interested in racing but I do know about Winx because they keep showing her on television,” she says. “It’s her last race and she is the equivalent of Phar Lap.”

Another lady proves less keen to talk about Winx. “I’m waiting for a bus,” she says, adding: “You would be better off talking to a bloke.”

Ron White is not a racing follower but he loves to watch Winx
Ron White is not a racing follower but he loves to watch Winx. Lee Mottershead

Rather fortunately, a friendly bloke is walking along Elizabeth Street by Hyde Park, which in 1810 became Sydney’s first racecourse.

“She is going for her 33rd straight win this weekend and then she retires,” says Ron White.

“Ask me about any other horse and I wouldn’t have a clue. I’m not a racing fan. I’ve only been to the races three times in my life and I don’t bet on the races but I do know Winx is a phenomenon.”

Warming to his theme, Ron adds: “It has been pretty difficult not to follow Winx’s story. She has been big news every few weeks every year.

“If you watch her on television – and it’s impossible to avoid seeing her at the moment – you can’t help but feel that when she strides out she is the most magnificent-looking animal. She is fantastic. I’ve even thought of going to Randwick on Saturday.”

Sadly Ron has missed his chance. Randwick is sold out for the first time in years. The people of Sydney are off to salute their sweetheart.